If the pandemic has benefited anything, it’s the behemoth known as Amazon, whose stock is currently trading at around $3,163 per share. They are taking a big bite out of the mom and pop shops who are struggling to survive. That’s why it’s important we remember to support the little guys this holiday season.
There are plenty of wonderful, independently owned businesses offering goodies that will make your kids scream in glee this holiday. Let’s support them this year — and frankly, every year. Because small business makes the world go ‘round.
The store’s name refers to child-like joy, but those shopping for kids will be delighted to find this independently run store chock full of great selections for all age ranges and interests. It’s been around since 1994, with a few locations come and gone, but the current site at the Village at Corte Madera is here to stay.
Cucu’s PlayHouse treasures educational toys from a handpicked collection of brands, chosen because of their sustainable manufacturing practices, use of natural materials and design quality. Most of their toys are from Plan Toys, Haba, Tender Leaf Toys and Sarah’s Silks. Their entire inventory is nicely organized on their website by age group and categories. They are currently offering Free Next Day delivery in Marin County.
Known primarily as an activity center with LEGO classes, camps and play areas, Play-Well offers the most extensive collection of LEGO boxed sets found in Marin. Even though its activities have been temporarily suspended, the retail side of the store remains open for business. In addition to boxed sets, the store also has an extensive assortment of LEGO spare pieces for sale too, for make-it-up-as-you-go construction.
This sweet, visually pleasing store in the heart of Noe Valley prides itself for offering globally curated, design-driven toys such as BrandNewNoise handmade voice recorders, Llorens dolls from Spain, and Austrian-made blankets by David Fussenegger. Each Tuesday in December, the store is hosting a coat drive, offering a 15% discount on purchases for anyone who donates a coat. They also offer after-hours shopping appointments on request as well as an online store to complement the brick and mortar location.
It’s over in the East Bay, but we’d be remiss for not mentioning the quirky and lovable Toy Safari. This holiday season, the family-run business will even be doing the shopping for you when you sign up for their Toy Box Service — just give ‘em a price range and a description of the kid’s age and preferences, and they’ll curate a selection of toys to choose from. Just think of what you can do with all that extra time you’ll have.
Trains, planes and automobiles can be found in abundance at this longstanding hobby store, one of the only ones of its kind in Marin. While younger children will be fascinated with the store’s stock, there’s also a good selection for slightly older kids who have outgrown many other toys but still like to build with their hands.
The California Academy of Sciences may be closed to visitors at the moment, but its online store offers a vast collection of STEM-based toys, books and stuffies which are both entertaining and educational. Of note is the recently released picture book about Claude, the museum’s beloved albino alligator.
Circus-themed Tantrum in the Inner Richmond is chock full of handmade toys and games with a mid-century feel. The store has the largest collection of toys and gifts from Danish brand Maileg, plus puzzles and games for all skill levels and giftables for grownups. The store prides itself on its old fashioned gift wrapping service, available for both in store and online purchases, which is customized with a hand-stamped name tag for the gift recipient.
While Toyhouse is your fundamental, locally operated toy store, it’s owned by a mom of four, meaning she knows a thing or two about toys. This season, games and puzzles have been hot commodities at the store, as well as Buddha Boards, providing a modern twist to paint-with-water sets.
Editor’s Note: please check store websites for shopping hours and safety protocols, as many stores have altered their hours during the pandemic.
How to help:
Consider supporting one of these local nonprofits that urgently need support during the pandemic.
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Donna Berry Glass is a freelance writer in Marin County who writes mostly about family and kid-oriented topics. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the natural beauty of Marin, snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel while reading a good book or whipping up something delicious in her space-challenged kitchen. Donna is a supporter of the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and the Institute on Aging which provides much needed services to seniors and disabled individuals.